Knesset (Parliament) member for Israel s Religious Zionism party Tzvi Sukkot (L) is confronted as he tries to interrupt a rally by Palestinian and Israeli peace activists protesting at the entrance of Huwara in the occupied West Bank, on March 3, 2023, following deadly violence by Israeli settlers. AFP
In the thread, posted in English shortly after midnight, Netanyahu did not appear to condemn the remarks outright and implied that the ally, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, misspoke. Netanyahu thanked Smotrich for later walking the comments back and “making clear that his choice of words” was “inappropriate.” The bulk of the thread urged the international community to seek condemnations from the Palestinians over attacks against Israelis.
It appeared to be his first public response to Smotrich's remarks since they were made Wednesday.
Netanyahu's Twitter thread underlines how the Israeli leader has had to balance the ideologies of the far-right members of his government with the expectations of Israel's chief ally, the United States. Smotrich is the head of one of several ultranationalist parties that help make up Netanyahu’s government, its most right-wing ever.
Israeli Jewish settlers of the occupied West Bank last week rampaged through the Palestinian village of Hawara. Later in the week, Smotrich said the village should be erased — by Israeli forces and not by private citizens.
Smotrich later backtracked, saying he didn’t mean for the village to be erased but for Israel to operate surgically within it against Palestinian militants. Still, his earlier comments sparked an international outcry. The U.S. called them repugnant and urged Netanyahu to “publicly and clearly reject and disavow them.” The United Nations and Middle East powerhouses Egypt and Saudi Arabia also condemned Smotrich's remarks.
Smotrich, in a tweet Saturday, said he was “convinced that he didn't mean to incite to kill me when he said I must be thrown from the plane just as I didn't mean to harm innocents when I said Hawara must be erased.”
In his tweets, Netanyahu wrote that "it is important for all of us to work to tone down the rhetoric". “That includes speaking out forcefully against inappropriate statements and even correcting our own statements when we misspeak or when our words are taken out of context,” he posted.
Netanyahu then blasted the Palestinian Authority for not condemning Palestinian attacks against Israelis, and the international community for not demanding condemnations from the Palestinians.
Israel occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. Israel maintains a 55-year, open-ended occupation over Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and a blockade of the Gaza Strip.